Rosemary Potatoes Featured

Three More Thanksgiving Side Dishes with a Mediterranean Twist

Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays.  But the holiday has to be very adaptive this year because of  — well, you know.  With that in mind, I am offering a series of Thanksgiving side dishes adapted to feature Mediterranean flavors. I started last week with the first three dishes. Today, I add three more to that. As I said last week, none of these Thanksgiving Side Dishes has a long and storied past in ‘the old country’.  What they are Instead is my own adaptation. I have taken popular sides, and changed them up to feature flavors from around the Mediterranean.  While the flavors may not be traditional, all of these side dishes are delicious.  This seems like the perfect opportunity to give something new a try this year.

As much as possible, I tried to include recipes that can be made all or partly ahead of Thanksgiving.  I also looked to use the stovetop as much as possible.  Unless you have two ovens, your oven will be pretty busy.  Where you need the oven, have the dish fully prepped and ready to slide into the oven as soon as the turkey comes out. 

All the recipes can be found at the end of the post.

Lemon & Rosemary Roasted New Potatoes

After a turkey and stuffing, is there anything more common at the Thanksgiving table than potatoes?  Every year I make a giant batch of my creamy mashed potatoes.  They are addictive, popular, and loaded with butter and sour cream.  As much as I love them, this year I am aiming for something a bit less — heavy.   Except at Thanksgiving, when I eat potatoes, they are often the small variety.  I roast them in the oven to give them color, tossed with salt, pepper, and an herb that compliments whatever I am serving them with.  Simple, easy delicious. 

Rosemary Potatoes Featured

I love the combination of lemon and rosemary together, and I think that lemon goes surprisingly well with potatoes.  So for my Thanksgiving side dishes this year, I am leaning on the flavors of Greece to jazz up the potatoes.  Specifically, garlic, lemon and rosemary.  I am also using the small potatoes, and cooking them entirely on the stove top.  That is a departure from my usual roasting process, but my oven will be busy Thanksgiving day.

Roasting Potatoes On the Stovetop

To use the stove top, there are a couple of tricks to keep in mind, especially for safety’s sake. Start the potatoes by browning the cut surface, but that won’t be enough to cook the potato through.  You could boil the potatoes first, but that is another pot to manage on the stove.  I also don’t like that because the wet potatoes are harder to get good browning on. 

So I flip the process and do it all in one pan.  Brown the potatoes, and then add some water to steam them.   But in the interest of safety, you need to let the pan cool a bit before adding the water.  Adding water to a very hot pan with a coat of oil on the bottom could be disastrous.  At the very least, you risk steam burns.  Avoid all that by letting the pan go from hot to warm before adding the water.

Add the water, cover the pan, and let the steam do the work cooking the potatoes the rest of the way.  So here is the other trick — don’t season them until after the steaming is done.  Otherwise, the steam will wash the seasoning off the surface of the potatoes.  When the potatoes are done steaming remove the lid.  Then cook away the rest of the water, and then add you garlic and rosemary with some fresh oil.  Toss it all to coat, and salt and pepper, and some lemon juice.  And there you go.  Greek inspired roast potatoes for you Thanksgiving day.  

Sautéed Pears with Bacon & Walnuts 

Normally, the only fruit we have at our Thanksgiving table is cranberry sauce.  Two varieties.  My homemade and canned (don’t ask. I have to have it.)  And I will be having my homemade cranberry sauce this year, but I thought adding another fruit wouldn’t be bad.  And I’ll be honest, I saw this recipe at Bon Appetit and thought I just had to try it.  I made a couple of minor changes, but otherwise their recipe has become a new favorite here. 

Pear Bacon Featured

To me, this recipe evokes the seasonal flavors of the south of France in the region of Provance.  Pears, Bacon, Mustard.  Warming and delicious. The local farm had Bartlett pears available, so that is what I used. I substituted dijon mustard for the whole grain mustard of the original recipe.  Next I swapped out white wine vinegar to use champagne vinegar instead.  Finally, I added some herbs de provence because I thought it was the right seasoning for this combination.  

Simple to prepare, delicious to eat, and a little bit elegant and upscale.  There is nothing about this side that isn’t enjoyable.  It is just as good warm as it is at room temperature, so it is a great addition to a table.  The one thing this dish isn’t is vegetarian friendly.  It is the only one of the six Thanksgiving Side Dishes in my roundup that isn’t vegetarian friendly.  This dish will be making an appearance on my table beyond just Thanksgiving.   

Ras El Hanout Sweet Potatoes

I don’t really like sweet potatoes.  I have never (before) served them at Thanksgiving.  They just aren’t my thing.  But in the spirit of Thanksgiving I decided to give them a try again.  And I’m glad I did — this Spice version that relies on the flavors of Morocco really jazzes up the sweet potatoes.  

Spiced Sweet Potatoes

The sweet potatoes in this Thanksgiving Side Dish are seasoned with my favorite Moroccan spice blend, Ras El Hanout.  You have seen me write about Ras El Hanout before, here and here.  It works  well here because the spices bring a ‘warming’ flavor to sweet potatoes.  The addition of some honey to help the spices glaze the sweet potatoes.  That makes for a really enticing sweet and warm combination. As a result, the sweet potatoes are both exotic and comforting at the same time.  If you don’t have RasAl Hounut, the recipe does include more common spices you can use as a substitute.  

I’ve also cooked them all in a skillet on the stove top to help minimize the demand on the otherwise busy oven.  To do this, the potatoes are cut into half inch thick slices.  This allows them to cook through by spending several minutes on each side.  Once they all are cooked, whisk the honey and Ras El Hanout into some melted butter.  Toss it all together, then sprinkle with some sesame seeds.  Potatoes can be cooked up to three days ahead and reheated just before serving. 

Lemon and Rosemary Roasted New Potatoes

Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Greek, Mediterranean
Keyword: Lemon, Potato, Rosemary
Ingredients
  • 1 lb baby new potatoes halved
  • 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil plus 1 TBS for dressing
  • 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2 tsp rosemary finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

Instructions

  • Heat heavy bottomed skillet or cast iron pan(see note) over medium high heat
  • Add olive oil
  • Place potatoes in pan, cut side down for 3 – 5 minutes until a golden brown crust begins to form
  • Stir the potatoes up to prevent them from sticking to the bottom.
  • Turn the pan off and let cool for about 5 minutes.
  • Add ½ cup of water to warm (not hot) pan and cover with a lid
  • Turn the heat back on, and bring the pan to a simmer.
  • Steam the potatoes for 8 to 10 minutes, until the potatoes are fully cook
  • While the potatoes are steaming combine the lemon juice and half of the remaining tablespoon of olive oil
  • Remove the lid, and let the remaining water steam away.
  • Add the last of the olive oil, garlic, and rosemary to the potatoes
  • Cook, stirring frequently until the garlic just starts to get fragrant
  • Add salt and pepper to taste
  • Remove from heat and add about half of the lemon dressing and toss to coat. Taste the potatoes, and adjust the seasoning or add more dressing as necessary.
  • Serve potatoes hot.

Sautéed Pears with Bacon and Walnuts

Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mediterranean, Provencal
Keyword: bacon, Pear, walnuts
Ingredients
  • 3 ounces slab bacon sliced ¼ inch thick, slices cut into ¼ inch pieces
  • 2 ripe but firm Bartlett pears cut into 8 wedges each, seeds removed
  • 1 ½ tsp champagne vinegar
  • 1 ½ tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 TBS plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup roasted walnuts
  • ½ tsp plus ¼ tsp herbs de provence
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp around edges, 10–12 minutes.
  • Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  • Carefully pour off all but 1 TBS bacon fat from the skillet.
  • Cook pears in the skillet with bacon fat over medium-high, turning occasionally
  • Pears are ready when they are golden brown and starting to soften 5–7 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, whisk vinegar, mustard, and 2 TBS. oil in a small bowl to combine;
  • Season dressing with kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and ¼ tsp herbs de provence
  • Toss walnuts with remaining teaspoon of oil in another small bowl; season with salt.
  • Remove the pears from the heat, and add half of the cooked bacon and half of the walnuts and toss to combine
  • Season with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • Arrange the pears on a platter for serving.
  • Drizzle dressing over pears and scatter remaining bacon and walnuts on top. Just before serving, top with herbs de provence.

Pan Roasted Moroccan Spiced Sweet Potatoes

Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mediterranean, Moroccan
Keyword: ras el hanout, sweet potato
Servings: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pounds small sweet potatoes peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter , divide
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tsp Ras El Hanout or see substitute in Notes
  • kosher salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp roasted sesame seed

Instructions

  • Halve sweet potatoes lengthwise, then cut each half again in half lengthwise, creating four quarters
  • Cut each quarter into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • Heat oil and 1 TBS of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add the sweet potatoes and cook, turning once, until starting to brown in spots, 2 to 4 minutes total.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, turning frequently, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to a large bowl; cover to keep warm. Repeat with 1 tablespoon oil and the remaining butter and sweet potatoes. Transfer to the bowl and keep covered.
  • While the sweet potatoes are cooking, carefully melt the remaining butter in a small bowl.
  • Add honey and Ras Al Hanount and whisk to combine thoroughly
  • When the potatoes are tender, add the honey mixture to the pan with the sweet potatoes and simmer, stirring, for 30 seconds.
  • Remove from heat and add the sesame seed, tossing to combine
  • Serve potatoes warm, or store up to a three days and reheat to serve

Notes

Ras el hanout is a spice blend that literally translates to “head of the shop” implying the very best of the spices the merchant has to offer. Since every shop and every family has their own version of ras el hanout, there is no ‘definitive’ version or recipe. I have my own blend I have been making for years, combining 18 different spices. There is often a version available in the grocery stores — Whole Foods near me carries it, as does Amazon. Alternatively, you can make your own quick blend with spices that are individually easy to find . I make a large batch and store it in an airtight container to use whenever I want to add a Moroccan hint to my meals.
Ras al Hanout recipe:
1 tsp ground coriander seed
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground cloves

2 Comments

  1. Jillian Cobat

    I LOVE the Ras El Hanout Sweet Potatoes! Not only is it seasoned to perfection (the sweet, rich flavor accented with sesame seeds is delicious) but cooked just right! In my experience, sweet potatoes can be mushy – no mush here!

    Will definitely be making this for a healthier potato substitute

    Thank you John for sharing

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